Discrimination on the runway: Delta’s uniform sizing

Delta is under fire from its new partner Northwest Airlines due to what they claim is weight discrimination. Delta’s signature bright red dress, which debuted on the NY runways in 2005 and hit the airways in 2006, only comes in up to size 18.

“Red is a color that attracts attention and someone, somewhere has made a decision that they don’t want to attract attention to someone in a dress that’s larger than a size 18,” says Patricia Reller, vice chair of the Northwest flight attendants’ union’s grievance committee. “I’m very offended by it,” she adds.

The committee also filed complaints in regards to Delta’s “requirement that flight attendants who wear orthopedic shoes must wear slacks and not a skirt or dress. Those that wear the orthopedic shoes must obtain a doctor’s note,” according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Designer of the red dress, Richard Tyler (pictured), was reportedly envisioning the flights of yore, when everyone dressed up to fly, and well … apparently when flight attendants wore heels and were under size 18. Delta, whose flight attendants have no union, claims that there are plenty of options for fuller figured employees, including slacks, skirts, and other dresses.

Because Northwest’s flight attendants have a union, this merger may mean a lot of changes for Delta.

Check out this video of Delta giving the Northwest Airlines employees their fittings:

We rolled out the red carpet in Minneapolis / St. Paul to celebrate the completion of our style clinics for our Northwest flight attendants. The clinics gave attendants a first hand look and feel of Delta’s uniforms: The Richard Tyler Collection. Celebrity designer, Richard Tyler, was on-hand to provide custom style consultations to the flight attendants.” — the YouTube caption, via DeltaAirLines.

Style clinics?? What do you think?

Further reading: Our resident flight attendant Heather Poole has “a thing for airline uniforms.” Read here!


[via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

Don’t trust the airport scales – weigh your own luggage with the Balanzza Ergo

Last year, Jeffrey wrote about faulty scales at Tuscon airport, the month before that it was JFK airport. Bottom line is that airlines don’t always have their scales calibrated as often as they should, and airlines sometimes even use condemned scales in their daily operations.

Of course, the big issue here is that a bad scale could end up costing you money. If you weigh a bag at home, and think it weighs 45 lbs, but the airline tells you it weighs 55 lbs, who are you to argue? You’ll hand over your credit card and pay the difference.

Of course, smart people do argue with the airline, and smart people come prepared.

This is where the Balanzza Ergo handheld scale can help. This little device can weigh bags up to 100 lbs (or 44kg) and runs off 2 (included) AA batteries. To weigh a bag, you simply hook the strap onto your bag, turn the device on and wait for “the beep”. Once it beeps, you put it down again, and check the weight on the display.

The Balanzza Ergo handheld scale costs $24.95 and ships for about $6. Alternatively, you can find it at many travel product retailers for as low as $17. When you realize that airlines will charge as much as $125 for each overweight bag, you’ll understand the need for a portable product like this.

Air India fires 10 employees for being fat

State-run Air India gave 10 air hostesses the boot last week for being “exceptionally overweight.”

According to Reuters, a medical board in India had declared them “unfit for duty,” and they had been grounded for two to three years each. Air India finally decided to cut them off — and while several of the air hostesses apparently approached the New Delhi High Court about challenging the firings, the case was quickly scrapped.

This isn’t like back in the 60’s when American flight attendants had to meet almost ridiculous weight restrictions (read our Interview with a Retro Stewardess here), or is it? A five foot 18 year old air hostess for Air India had to weigh under 110 pounds, while hostesses ages 26-30 had a little more leeway at 123 pounds.

The air hostesses, who were between 24 and 70 pounds over their allotted weights, were declared medically incapable of doing their jobs. Now, they are jobless. USA Today spoke with one woman, Sheila Joshi, who had 27 years of service under her blazer.

From USA Today:

The Times notes the move comes as “a new breed” of Indian airlines “aims to entice travellers with promises of svelte cabin crew.” One such carrier is Kingfisher. On that note, flight attendant Joshi says: “Kingfisher was founded four years ago. Its cabin crew are all in their twenties. Let’s see how much they weigh in 20 years.”

Would a five foot tall, 134 pound 18 year old woman pushing a beverage cart really make anyone less likely to fly Air India?

Eesh. I bet Air India wouldn’t want these women on board their planes either (but for different reasons):

Galley Gossip: Be kind to your fellow passengers. Yes, that does include the ones who are overweight!

What I’ve learned about the world working at 35,000 feet is that you can’t please everyone, no matter how hard you try. Another thing I’ve learned is regardless of where people come from or where they are sitting on the airplane, most of them have one thing in common – lack of empathy for their fellow passengers. It seems as if a passenger is not experiencing (or has experienced) something first hand, they have little regard for what other passengers may be experiencing.

Take for instance the last row. It never fails, whenever I’m standing at the back of the airplane watching passengers board, I’ll notice a group of people getting closer and closer to me as they walk down the aisle squinting at the seat numbers on the armrests, and as they get closer and closer I can see the look of horror grow on their face as they realize just how close to the back of the aircraft their seats really are.

“We’re sitting in the last row! (Insert curse word here!)” That’s what I’ll usually hear as they sling their items into the empty overhead bin and slam the mother shut.

Hey, it’s not my fault! Anyways, someone has to sit there, why not you? I mean if it’s not you, who should it be? You do know that people are sitting there when you’re not there, right?

Passengers are always complaining about the bad attitudes of flight attendants, but what I’m sick and tired of are passengers with the same bad attitude. I’m not talking about the way they treat me, I’m talking about the way they treat each other! It’s gotten out of hand. For example, a lot has been written about overweight passengers on the airplane recently and what I find interesting are the comments people have made to these posts. They’re actually quite shocking. Seriously, what is it about the airplane that seems to bring out the worst in people?

One large passenger who is the inspiration behind this post wrote…


I am one of those large passengers. I fly to Europe more than I fly on domestic flights. I fly in coach, usually. I have learned little lessons to try to fly more easily. I fly on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, when there will be a larger chance of there being at least one empty seat in coach. Anytime that I HAVE to go to Las Vegas, I purchase two tickets.

The flight attendants have always been very helpful. I have only had one awful experience. On a flight from Houston to Albuquerque, I was in the window seat up front and the person beside me insisted on sit with my right hip up. I did not fit. I was in pain for a couple of hours. I had a terrible, huge bruise on that hip by that evening. Yes, I know, many people look at me as just an “obese person,” but I am a kind, caring, intelligent (Masters Degree) person and I have feelings, too.

The best service and care I have ever received is with Lufthansa. As usual, I flew either a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. At the gate, the gate attendant would, without any request from me, block out three available seats. I know that is extremely unusual, but trust me, it was extremely appreciated.

On a flight from Cancun to Houston, the male supervisor at check in took my boarding pass from me. He could not explain what he was doing because he did not speak English and I did not speak Spanish. He fixed and gave me another boarding pass with a flourish and a big smile. I smiled back, not knowing what had just happened. When I
boarded, I found that I was sitting in first class. To you sir, whoever and where ever you are, GRACIAS, so very much.
Random acts of kindness are greatly appreciated.

I hope that the normal sized or thin people who see a person like me will remember that we have feelings. If I am in a situation where I am intruding on another person’s space, I do feel embarrassed and I apologize. I cannot always afford to purchase two tickets. I try to drive rather than fly, if at all possible.


Can you imagine being the person who walks down the aisle that everyone is wishing not to sit next to? As they’re walking down the aisle, some of you are not even quiet about it! While I know it’s not comfortable traveling beside an overweight person, it’s not right to bash and judge them, just like it’s not right for me, your flight attendant, to bash and judge you in the galley with my fellow coworkers based on the way you travel. Everyone deserves a little kindness. Even on the airplane.

And now I’d like to leave you with a few kind words from Frank and Bob, two people I hope to find myself working with on an airplane one day soon…


I realized many years ago that my uniform didn’t make me “human” to many passengers. And, at times have been treated as if I didn’t have feelings/emotions either. You are NOT the problem. A 17 inch seat can not accommodate a lot of passengers, yet that is what the airline sells to you, is the problem. First and business fares are astronomical. That’s not the solution. As I walk down the aisle and see passenger’s of size, I silently think to myself………..how hard it is for you to sit there so uncomfortable. You may be large, Jeannie, but you also have a BIG HEART. I’ll take
that any day, over the passenger with the inflated sense of self importance.




Thank you so much, Frank. You know, I have never treated flight attendants as though they have no feelings. I suppose that is because any flight attendants I have ever come into contact with have always been very pleasant, have smiled and have taken the time to say hello, have a good flight, etc. I would say that 99% are very thoughtful and proactive in being helpful to me (like getting the seat belt extender for me before I can even ask). As far as the issue of a person’s weight, the fact is people aren’t overweight because they want to be. Obesity isn’t a decision one makes for ones self. There are a lot of circumstances that contribute to a person being overweight or obese. This common idea that overweight or obese people simply don’t take care of themselves and constantly eat Burger King for dinner is absurd and proves ignorance in so many of us.



Jeannie & Frank,

In this day and age, when the average person needs or wants to get from point A to point B and there is great distance involved, we are going to have to stuff ourselves into the big metal tube with a lot of other people who are in the same situation. It is going to entail unusual closeness and maybe crying infants. I know that it is only going to be for a few hours and I try to make the best of it. It is much easier to do when flight attendants like you are on duty, Frank.

Bob, the singing pilot.

Air India: No overweight crew on our planes

The discussion on whether overweight people should be treated differently on aircraft continues. Earlier this week, an airline consultant queried by Bloomberg suggested that airlines charging their passengers by their weight may be the next logical step in cost cutting in the industry.

Many including myself believe that idea to be rather far fetched (especially in the United States) and a surprisingly healthy discussion has blossomed in the comments section of my earlier post.

Perhaps I underestimated the tenacity of the airlines. Courts in New Delhi, India, just upheld a ruling allowing Air India, the nation’s flagship carrier to ground flight crew who were overweight. They actually implemented the rule two years ago, telling employees that they had to trim up or be moved to ground duty, but the decision has been wading through court ever since. As of Wednesday, however, the rule is official. Unlike the US, apparently India doesn’t have any laws against discriminating against weight.

Despite the recent ruckus about weight and cost savings in the industry, the roots of Air India’s decision seem to lie not in fuel savings but rather in making their flight attendants easier on the eyes. According to the Canadian Press, “Air India has tried in the past few years to change a public perception of its cabin staff as tired, unfriendly and inefficient”. Luckily, we don’t have that problem in the States.